Weekly Review — May 19, 2009, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

The Sri Lankan government declared an end to their 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, after a final battle in which Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran was killed along with hundreds of other rebel fighters. More than 70,000 people died in the course of the conflict. “This battle has reached its bitter end,” said a rebel spokesman. “We have decided to silence our guns.” Observers questioned the methods of Sri Lanka’s military, and foreign ministers of European Union nations said they were “appalled” by reports of high civilian death counts. A spokesman for the U.N.’s refugee agency estimated that 65,000 civilians had been displaced by the conflict in recent days.New York TimesU.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of lying to her during briefings on interrogation techniques in 2002, and claimed that her briefers expressly denied the use of waterboarding and that she first learned of its use several months later from a congressional aide. Pelosi’s deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he had “no idea” whether Pelosi’s charges were accurate. “It’s outrageous that a member of Congress should call a terror-fighter a liar,” said Republican Senator Kit Bond, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It seems the playbook is ‘blame terror-fighters.'”ABC NewsFormer Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, who was waterboarded as part of his Navy SEAL training, spoke out against the practice. “I’ll put it to you this way,” Ventura said. “You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”Huffington PostPresident Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame despite protests from Catholics. “Let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions,” Obama said. “Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.” As he spoke, a plane flew over campus towing a banner that depicted the feet of an aborted fetus.New York TimesTwo Yellowstone National Park concession workers were fired for peeing into Old Faithful.MSNBC

With massive support from the rural poor, the Indian National Congress party obtained enough seats to ensure a majority in India’s parliament. Party leader Sonia Gandhi, whose husband, Rajiv, was assassinated by Tamil Tigers in 1991, is believed to be paving the way for her 38-year-old son Rahul to become prime minister; Rahul Gandhi, said party leader Prithviraj Chavan, could become prime minister “whenever he wished.”New York TimesA candidate for the newly formed Canadian Sex Party received 2 percent of the vote in the Vancouver Point Grey riding,The Registerand pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial in Burma, charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest because an American man, unbeknownst to her, swam across a lake to spend a night at her house.New York TimesAn armed gang disguised as federal police freed more than 50 convicts from a prison in northern Mexico.BBC NewsA man in London was given a suspended sentence after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute to take his 14-year-old son’s virginity,Reutersand a Taiwanese man was indicted for stabbing a friend; the man had become angry after watching a DVD called Affairs with Others’ Wives that turned out to feature his wife having sex with his friend.MSNAidan Clifford, named as half of Ireland’s Most Romantic Couple by Irish Wedding Journal, was stripped of his title after being convicted of following women in his car while masturbating. Clifford’s solicitor blamed a stressful lifestyle for the behavior, saying his client had been “working himself to the bone.”The Register

An assistant principal at a New York City public school became the fifth American to die from the recent outbreak of swine flu,New York Timesand a mother in Texas punched her 5-year-old child’s teacher after the teacher admitted to shaking the child.New York TimesScientists in France reported that early humans ate Neanderthals.Live ScienceArkansas state Senator Kim Hendron apologized for calling New York Senator Chuck Schumer “that Jew” at a county Republican meeting. “I was attempting to explain that, unlike Senator Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on The Andy Griffith Show,” explained Hendron. “I made the mistake of referring to Senator Schumer as ‘that Jew’ and I should not have put it that way, as this took away from what I was trying to say.”Talking Points MemoVenetia Phair, nee Burney, who as an 11-year-old girl in 1930 named the newly discovered planet Pluto, died at age 90. “In the year 4,000 A.D., when Pluto is hollowed out and millions of people are living inside,” said an amateur astronomer, “the name of Venetia Burney may be the only thing that Great Britain is remembered for.”New York Times

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Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

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Last fall, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently suggested that the Justice Department had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other outlets reported soon after that Assange had likely been secretly indicted for conspiring with his sources to publish classified government material and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among other things.

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Harold Jamieson, once chief engineer of New York City’s sanitation department, enjoyed retirement. He knew from his small circle of friends that some didn’t, so he considered himself lucky. He had an acre of garden in Queens that he shared with several like-minded horticulturists, he had discovered Netflix, and he was making inroads in the books he’d always meant to read. He still missed his wife—a victim of breast cancer five years previous—but aside from that persistent ache, his life was quite full. Before rising every morning, he reminded himself to enjoy the day. At sixty-eight, he liked to think he had a fair amount of road left, but there was no denying it had begun to narrow.

The best part of those days—assuming it wasn’t raining, snowing, or too cold—was the nine-block walk to Central Park after breakfast. Although he carried a cell phone and used an electronic tablet (had grown dependent on it, in fact), he still preferred the print version of the Times. In the park, he would settle on his favorite bench and spend an hour with it, reading the sections back to front, telling himself he was progressing from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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1. In 2014, Deepti Gurdasani, a genetic epidemiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, coauthored a paper in Nature on human genetic variation in Africa, from which this image is taken. A recent study had found that DNA from people of European descent made up 96 percent of genetic samples worldwide, reflecting the historical tendency among scientists and doctors to view the male, European body as a global archetype. “There wasn’t very much data available from Africa at all,” Gurdasani told me. To help rectify the imbalance, her research team collected samples from eighteen African ethnolinguistic groups across the continent—such as the Kalenjin of Uganda and the Oromo of Ethiopia—most of whom had not previously been included in genomic research. They analyzed the data using an admixture algorithm, which visualizes the statistical genetic differences among groups by representing them as color clusters. The top chart shows genetic differences among the sampled African populations, in increasing degrees of granularity from top to bottom, and the bottom chart shows how they compare with ethnic groups in the rest of the world. The areas where the colors mix and overlap imply that groups commingled. The Yoruba, for instance, show remarkable homogeneity—their column is almost entirely green and purple—while the Kalenjin seem to have associated with many populations across the continent.

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Ten yards was the nearest we could get to the river. Any closer and the smell was too much to bear. The water was a milky gray color, as if mixed with ashes, and the passage of floating trash was ceaseless. Plastic bags and bottles, coffee lids, yogurt cups, flip-flops, and sodden stuffed animals drifted past, coated in yellow scum. Amid the old tires and mattresses dumped on the riverbank, mounds of rank green weeds gave refuge to birds and grasshoppers, which didn’t seem bothered by the fecal stench.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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